As the Veteran Grave Officer for the Town of Newbury I get approached often by those looking to properly and respectfully retire their flag. It seemed like a growing concerning, or that just more and more people were approaching me. Without any solid answer and response I decided to take matters in my own hands and create a solution for that – one they can see when they drive around town, and open and available 24/7 – 365 days a year.
The question now was, ‘What can I do to create a location for the community to properly dispose of their flags?’. I thought about building a box out of wood, thought about creating something like a book drop that the library has, then after some research I saw pictures of other people across country have used an old retired curbside mailbox and transformed it to collect flags. Made perfect sense. Now the quest begun, how and where do I obtain an old mailbox.
After spending all night researching and thinking of different ideas and stumbling across the mailbox idea I woke up the next morning and marched right to the local post office and asked to speak with the Post Master. When I finally was able to locate the office of our Post Master I pitched the idea to him and asked him if he could help me out. He seemed very interested in the help and thought it was great – specially for the community and to respect our flag.
After a long talk with the Post Master and he informed me that he has an extra box that they just took off the street and was headed to the scrap yard. He would be willing to give it to me for this project, but he had a few important guidelines and I have to verify that I work an appointed Town Offical, and that this was one of my duties. Post Master requested, the Box stays within the Town, is used only for flags and is clearly marked and label ‘Flags Only – Not for Mail.’ – Easy enough!!
For it to be a true community feature, it must be made and supported by the community…
Once the flag box arrived to my next the next step was to put together a plan and then execute. I knew I wanted many people, groups and businesses involved in this project. As I felt that would make this truly successful and get the buzz going around town about it.
Designing the Box: I have zero artistic abilities, so I was certainly out of the question for doing any paint work on the box. I’ve worked with Triton Regional High School before and had some students involved with other projects – so figured I would start there. I reached out to the Art Department and the Prinicpal and propose the idea of the kids helping with it. I mentioned that I would work on getting the paint and supplies donated so none of it would come out of school supplies. After the art department and prinicpal gave the thumbs up I was off to get paint and brushes.
Paint and Brushes: Keeping everything within the community I decided to swing by a local hardware store and talk to them about the project, vision, and goal and see if they could help out in some way. Told them I was seeking prices for red, white and blue paint as well as a couple different size brushes. After we went everything and figured out what would be best to used they made a list and told me that the would have everything ready in a couple days cause some of the paint they had to order. A few days later I received a phone from Pearson Hardware Store letting me know that everything was in and I could swing by to pick it up. When I went to pick it up they informed me that the Pearson family wanted to donate everything to the project as they felt it was a worthy project, and will be a great fixture for the community.
Keeping the Box Secure: When I received the box there was no lock on it to keep the door closed. The Post Master informed me that I would have to obtain my own lock as the Post Office recycles all their locks. Easy enough, and totally understandable. I reached out to my friend at Al’s Lock Service and pitch the project to him. He said he has those locks in stock and to just let him know when I need it he would gladly donate it to the box.
Location / Placing the Flag Box: Picking the location for the box is key. It has to be available for the community to get to 24/7, and at a location that’s easy for people to find and convenient for them to get too and what’s a better place then, the Fire Department. After reaching to the Byfield Fire Department and explaining to them what the box would be for, how it was going to be maintained and what I was looking for they were for excited and open to be involved. I swung by the Fire Station and we picked a location that would be great for the box, allow those dropping off flags to stop and not be in the way of the fire department operations. The location could not of been better – it’s like it was planned to be.
Open for Use: The flag box was officially opened to the public in August 2016, several local residents joined us, Domino’s Pizza donated pizza, Fire Fighters and Town Officals joined us for the ceremony. In the weeks following the flags started to flow in and I could not keep up with the demand. Seemed every time I turned around the flag box needed to be empty. Between August and Veterans Day 2016 over 1,200 flags were collected. Running out of space – Secretary Francisco Urena invited us to bring the flags down to a Flag Retiring Ceremony in West Roxbury and join them.
What Flags can be dropped in the box? The box has collected and can collect every kind of flags from State Flags, Town Flags, POW Flags, Cemetery Markers and Full-Size American Flags.
Questions About The Flag Box